Recently by Dennis Degeneffe

New data from The Food Industry Center's Continuous Food Safety/Defense Tracking (CFST) study shows that consumer concern over the Gulf Oil Spill's impact on seafood safety has started to decline. Although 85% of those surveyed in our national sample over the past 4 weeks (the weeks of July 19th through August 9th) still express some degree of concern over the risk the oil spill poses to Gulf seafood, this percentage has declined from 92% in the previous four weeks (June 24th through July 12th). Also, the proportion of Americans expressing extreme concern over the safety of Gulf seafood fell from 53% in previous four weeks to 41% in the most recent four weeks.

Further, the percent of those surveyed who indicated that they would not change their seafood eating habits rose from 43% to 47% in the most recent 4 weeks.

Although consumer concern clearly still runs high, it appears that the upward trend of concern since the start of the oil spill has peaked and is beginning to wane; as news coverage is reporting the oil spill has been brought under control.

CFST research is a joint project between The Food Industry Center and the Louisiana State University AgCenter with funding from the National Center for Food Protection and Defense. The study's Perceived Preparedness Index (PPI) measures the change in consumers' belief about how prepared government and private companies are to respond to food safety incidents. The study's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) measures the change in consumers' confidence in the safety of the U.S. food system. When the indexes were initiated in May 2008, only 30 percent of consumers indicated that they believed the food supply was safer than one year ago.



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Concern Over Impact of Gulf Oil Spill on Seafood Safety Becomming an Important Issue for Many

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Following the June 28th University of Minnesota news release regarding Gulf seafood safety, The Food Industry Center has received several requests for interviews and further information. Data from the press release was quoted in a New York Times article, published July 13th, and was featured in news stories on both radio and television as well as internet news sites.

The key point of interest has been with respect to the proportion of people who say the Gulf Oil Spill will affect their seafood eating habits. The press release quoted that 54% of consumers surveyed said that the Gulf Oil Spill would affect their seafood eating habits in some way - and of those people, 44% (note this is a percent of the 54%) said that they would avoid seafood from the Gulf, and another 31% said they would eat less seafood regardless of where it comes from.

Looking at the weekly trends from the study, it is also apparent that consumer concern is increasing. In the first three weeks of the oil spill (interviews conducted from May 11th - 25th), 46% of those interviewed said they were "Extremely Concerned" about the risk the oil spill poses to the safety of seafood from the Gulf, rising to 54% in the next 3 weeks (June 1st - 15th).

Implications voiced by some of those of those contacting The Food Industry Center included concerns about how this event may impact food service/restaurant sales of seafood, and impact healthful eating behavior where seafood consumption is encouraged. The Food Industry Center will continue to track the event as it unfolds, and would be highly receptive to expanding the study if fund options presented themselves. Those interested should contact Dennis Degeneffe at (612) 624-4746.

Gulf Oil Spill Negatively Impacts Consumer Perceptions of the Safety of the U.S. Food Supply

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Data collected in the continuous Consumer Food Safety/ Defense Tracking Study (CFST) since the week of May 3, 2010, shows a sizable decline in its Preparedness Index (PPI) - indicating likely consumer concern over the preparedness of the country to deal with the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on food safety. Between the weeks of May 3rd and May 17th the Preparedness Index fell 16 points.

The Preparedness Index is composed of the following two questions:

"In thinking about food safety, that is the natural or accidental contamination of food, do you think the U. S. food supply is safer today than it was a year ago?" (Uses a 6 point scale with 1=Definitely Not Safer, and 6=Definitely Safer).

"Thinking about food defense do you think the United States is better prepared for a terrorist attack on the food supply than it was a year ago?" (Uses a 6 point scale with 1=Definitely Not Safer, and 6=Definitely Safer).

A copy of the Index graph is available at May 2010 Preparedness Index.pdf. For more results and trends from the CFST project and a more detailed description of the indexes and methodology, please visit the CFST web page.

The CFST project will continue measuring the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill on consumer confidence. Several questions have been added to the survey to examine the implications of the Gulf Oil Spill on consumers' perceptions on food safety, and seafood safety in particular. Project researchers continue to monitor the oil spill incident and will provide future updates on the Food Thought blog as they unfold.

CFST research is a joint project between The Food Industry Center and the Louisiana State University AgCenter with funding from the National Center for Food Protection and Defense. The Perceived Preparedness Index (PPI) measures the change in consumers' belief about how prepared we (government and private companies) are to respond to food safety incidents. The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) measures the change in consumers' confidence in the safety of the U.S. food system. When the indexes were initiated in May 2008, only 30 percent of consumers indicated that they believed the food supply was safer than one year ago.



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